In this episode, we dive deep into preventing and avoiding time-bombs, and if they happen to explode, minimize their damage. We go through some examples of what can cause these explosive situations, what we can do to avoid them, the tools available to deal with them, and how to put them into practice. We also talk about the three things we can do to deal with time-bombs: develop the habit of doing what matters most, create a system that eliminates time-bombs, and be easy on people and hard on the problem.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to the Becoming Your Best podcast wherever you may be in the world today. We are so grateful to have you be part of this show. We all wish we had the chance just to be together so that we could discuss this great subject today of eliminating the time bombs. This podcast was inspired by a recent experience of a friend by the name of Jim. He has an amazing friend by the name of Mary, who’s a mother of a large family, and who had also been previously divorced. She wanted to change your email address from her divorce name to her maiden name. Jim offered his assistant, Kate, to help complete the project. Kate went to work and used her cell numbers and name to verify the Gmail account so that she could be sure everything was working properly. The job was completed but Kate did not change the verification cell number to Mary’s cell as she had planned to at that time. And during about the same time, the daughter-in-law of Mary was in a prestigious national pageant, and Mary was excited to attend and support her daughter-in-law. But unfortunately, during the very same time, Mary contracted COVID and became quite ill. This forced her to watch the pageant via the internet. So, not only was she ill but she found that she could not access her email because the verification number had not been changed to her name. It was still in the name of the assistant. So she contacted Jim via text message, and he called her and offered the help of his assistant Kate – although it was a Friday night – and she briskly told him, “Forget it,” and concluded the conversation. She was feeling sick, frustrated, and was upset. Jim felt badly that her number had not been switched to the verification number as had been planned. Kate made the final adjustments that night, the problem was repaired. But the damage had been done. Mary was, obviously, quite frustrated, and Jim felt horrible. This event sprained their relationship.
The next afternoon, Mary generously and genuinely apologized to Jim, which was deeply appreciated. And he once again expressed a sincere apology for not following up with Kate to be sure that the number had been changed. As a result of this experience, their friendship was closer, really, than ever. But it certainly went through a trial and test along with a determination to be aware of potential time bombs in the future and a steely determination to avoid them.
This is a vivid example of a time bomb that went off. Jim could have avoided it by following up with Kate to be sure that the cell number for the verification for email had been changed way in advance. This story illustrates the damage of a detonated time bomb and the resulting collateral damage. Imagine if Jim would have followed up to have the verification number corrected immediately – this action would have lessened one more element, one more dimension that contributed to Mary trying to get into an already tricky website process to watch the pageant, and would have made everybody a bit happier and at ease.
Maybe you can think of a time bomb that has gone off in your business and/or life and what the impact was. Time bombs come in many different shapes and sizes but the results are often the same: disrupted relationships, anger, frustration, effectiveness, blaming, criticizing, condemning, and regret. And rarely is the result positive or pretty. Let’s face it; to be yelled at or to be the subject of someone’s wrath is so tough and unpleasant. In fact, the enemy to good relationships, trust, peace, calm, effectiveness, efficiency, and pride of good workmanship is the time bomb. And the definition of a time bond is a situation that threatens to have disastrous, unproductive, and unhappy consequences at some future time. Now, sometimes this is also a reference render to an individual that’s under high pressure, and he or she is getting ready to blow.
This term alludes to an explosive device that is set to go off at a specific time. That is the analogy. And yes, it is primarily driven by urgency of time. In other words, the event is coming, and the longer you wait – procrastination, in other words – to get ready or the longer you wait to be prepared for the event, the higher risk of having a time bomb explode. So, why do you let this happen? Well, it could be just a bad habit or maybe procrastination or people don’t have the proper tools to consistently eliminate time bombs; they just don’t know how to do it.
Or for example, in referring to having the right tools, research shows that 80% of people do not have a planning tool, or it is the wrong kind of a planning tool that actually perpetuates a short term focus, where you’re not making the connection between the long term obligations or meetings that are coming up in the short term preparation or execution. It could be complacency or it could be challenges in life, like the death of a loved one, injury, disease, the loss of job, or even a financial crisis. It could be any tension that contributes to a time bomb or poor planning or lack of planning, or it’s simply forgetting, or you’re too busy or overbooked or overwhelmed, or simply it’s an oversight. In other words, it just wasn’t on the radar.
On the other hand, the more prepared you are for any event, the more likely you are to eliminate the time bombs entirely. And the event goes off without incident. Examples of events that can become time bombs in the absence of being prepared in advance might include an important meeting that’s coming up; a project with a deadline; a big-time keynote, address, or a presentation that’s coming up; a departmental issue that’s just ready to explode; a big promotion of a product or service; going to church or some other event; and election, a sporting event or a performance; or it could be as simple as a date or a dinner appointment.
So, what can you do to prevent a time bomb from going off and to eliminate the risk altogether, especially with any of these types of events that we just talked about? Well, I’d like to suggest three things today that will really help eliminate those time bonds. The first is to develop the habit to do what matters most. Recently, we released a new book entitled Do What Matters Most. And in it, we highlight the three high-performance habits of doing what matters most. These things completely eliminate the time bombs or vastly eliminates the time bombs. Here are the three high-performance habits: have a personal vision, have annual roles and goals, and do pre-week planning. These three high-performance habits will crush and eliminate the time bombs. For example, a statement that could be included as part of your vision might be something like this: “I get things done ahead of time. I am prepared in advance. And this brings me, and everyone I associate with, peace, high performance, higher quality, and it’s a lot more fun.” Now, that is a great statement to have in your vision. Because literally the mental idea, the mental creation precedes the physical reality. Now, here is an example of a SMART goal that could be associated with that. So, the SMART goal for the year, and it can be a 100% game-changer, is this: “I will do my pre-week planning 52 weeks this year.” That refers to the third one. So, the three high-performance habits: have a personal vision; number two is have annual roles and goals, and I’ve just given two examples, an example of each of these; and then the third one, pre-week planning. So, when you do this, your pre-week planning for the 52 weeks during the year, just have fun and eliminate those time bonds because that is exactly what it is designed to do.
And to help you with this, Becoming Your Best has developed an impressive 52-week annual planner, that is both paper-based format and digital. And this planner is a modest investment that will provide benefits to you all year long. And the main thing is that it helps you to go right through its design of “how to eliminate the time bombs in four effortless steps.” And now we’re talking, of course, about how to do that pre-week planning. 62% of planners users use this kind of hybrid approach of a paper base and a digital planner. And this allows you to not only envision having an effective schedule and effective plan set up for the week but it also helps you envision eliminating those time bombs that could come up. It also provides the opportunity to communicate your schedule with your work team or family members as needed through an extension with Google Calendar, or an Outlook calendar. So it’s really fun stuff. So, once you have completed your pre-week planning, you can chair fly your week; sit back, close your eyes, think about it, and see that week smoothly moving along, see crises coming up but you’re able to effectively move things around and adjust so that you’re able to have a smooth-running week.
So, what this does for you is as you review your upcoming calendar and what needs to be done this week, it allows you to maintain peace, effectiveness, and efficiency in your life and the life of your family and team. You can actively search and look for the hidden bombs, go forward in your calendar this month, then next month, and then draw them forward to this week and say, “Is there anything that could trip me up?” Well, what this does then is it puts you at a whole different place. You can take action now. And through thoughtful pre-week planning, it keeps you ahead of the curve. So, that’s the first action that you can take in order to eliminate the time bombs is just do those three high-performance habits: have a personal vision; have annual SMART goals; and three, do pre-week planning.
Now, the second thing you can do is create systems and processes that eliminate the time bomb crisis. Now, I’ve got a simple example of this, yet it has many applications in its different forms is when our family was young, every Sunday we went to church together. And the goal was to be five to 10 minutes early before the church service started and to have a great experience. This, by being a little early, would allow time for us to greet people as we arrived at church and find a good row or pew to sit in together as a family. The challenge is that this was a logistical nightmare that took place every Sunday. This logistical challenge carries all risk to have a time bomb go off every week, destroying the spirit of the Sabbath that we had hoped to achieve in our family. In our case, we had six very active children from one to 16 years old. This entailed getting everybody up on time, having had breakfast, dressed, showered, my wife had to get ready – which is a task in itself – and I needed to be ready. And we also had to be sure that the younger children had snacks or something like that, an activity packet so that they could enjoy the service until they were older and could more appreciate what was going on so that they could draw something that held their attention. Well, once we were there and made it through the first hour, we were off to the races, as children would go to primary or their separate Sunday school classes. But then when church was over, we found that the visiting habits for our children and me were different from my wife and the other ladies who love visiting after church. And the children were anxious to go home versus my wife really preferred to relax and hang out with friends. And so this was an absolute time bomb waiting to go off.
So, how do you create a system that makes this a happy, positive, memorable experience every Sunday? Well, one answer, at least for our family was to divide and conquer and to use two vehicles. I could take one group, the early group, and get there 10 minutes early, so we had our pew or row reserved and set to go. We could just relax. There is no pressure. And then my wife would take the second group, she’d be a little bit behind me, and simply come and join us. I would take the children’s activity bags and have them ready. I took responsibility for the children that needed a little more help to get into the car. And after the services were over, everyone that wanted to go home right away, jumped into my car. And anyone that wanted to visit a little bit longer could come home with my wife. We had a system down that worked. There were no time bombs. And now years later, it works so great. These were happy moments for us; happy more moments for my wife and I, and also for our family. And today, now that our children are all grown, married, having their own children, it’s fun to watch them repeat this process with their children. I must admit that pre-week planning will help with most events as the monthly view and weekly focus allows you to see things coming down the pike. And you can ask yourself, “What can I do this week to eliminate the time bombs?” And this includes having the processes and systems set up that really contribute to eliminating them.
Well, a professional example of this is spaceflight. Those in charge, the leaders of these companies, the engineers, the project managers have created detailed checklists and proven processes to safely launch a rocket to deliver payloads and to return the boosters and crew safely home. The engineering process to do this is an inspiration and a notable example for every organization in our modern-day world. The use of technology, automation, devices, and artificial intelligence combined to make us more effective than any other time in history. So, the goal of eliminating time bombs through modern technology, systems, and processes should be at the really top of our list. It will not only save us time, frustration, and anger but also time and money. So, the goal is really to go for perfection. And I love the quote by Vince Lombardi, the legendary professional football coach, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” And that’s really what we’re trying to do is to really chase perfection so that we can have excellence. And we are closer to perfection today in so many areas than we’ve ever been in the past. It’s a great standard. A fun way to look at perfection was pointed out by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” In other words, we’re always thinking about the processes and systems, and technology that can help support this kind of excellence.
So, what are the processes and systems you can set up in your organization and life to cause things to go smoothly and eliminate the time bombs? So, those are two important suggestions today that we’d offer, that is, number one is “Develop the habits of doing what matters most;” these three high-performance habits. Number two is “Create the systems and processes that can help eliminate time bombs” and replace them with peace in order a predictable outcome. And then number three today is “Be easy on people and hard on what causes the problem.” So, if it happens and the time bomb does explode, be determined that you will examine why it happened and vow not to let it happen again, especially if you’re the leader, and really focus in on what were the circumstances that caused it because people, in most cases, are desirous to do the right things.
Peter Drucker always instructed us to focus on the systems. And it’s the people that created the systems that their desire is to have good outcomes. So, if you are responsible and had a part in the time bomb, apologize to those involved and take responsibility to get to a better place by preventing and eliminating the time bombs in the future. To accomplish this requires leadership, humility, determination, and skill to have an effective and efficiently running operation. Peter Drucker once shared, “Starve the problem – the time bombs – and feed the opportunities.” You will be more successful as you focus and feed on how to do things right. In other words, having a vision, goals, pre-week planning, chair flying, and setting up processes and systems that assure successful outcomes time and time again, while starving procrastination, complacency, and waiting until the last minute to get things done, and you will eliminate time bombs in your life.
Winston Churchill declared: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Well, this is precisely the type of courageous effort it takes to be wise and prioritizing your time in such a way as to eliminate time bombs. Your relentless efforts to do this will produce a lifelong fruit of peace, clarity, confidence, high performance, high quality, and happiness for you, your family, and your team.
May this be your lot. Thank you for joining us today. This is Steve Shallenberger wishing you the best today and always.